Research: Arandora Star (02 July 1940)

This is one of a selection of resources (films, texts, artworks, etc) which provides useful information and aids the contextualisation of the situations in which Cultural Documents works. This group of resources is provided to the contributors undertaking new projects as part of the research phase of each project.

In this article by Luciano Mascio, we learn that people with transitional civic status are at risk, and of the treatment of ‘aliens’ during wartime.

The events leading up to the sinking of the Arandora Star are an example of how, despite the distance of time and territory, war causes civic status to be re-evaluated. Only 86 of the 1,500 ‘passengers’ on the Arandora Star were Prisoners of War; they were accompanied by people who, in the few weeks since 10 June 1940, had found their status as integrated citizens re-classified, and the stability at the core of their democratic citizenship revoked. The impact on these people and their immediate families was severe, and, in 1940, caused an impact which continues to be felt more than 70 years after.

In the image attached here, the editorial message of the Daily Express of 4 July 1940 chooses to strongly reinforce the reputation of ‘Aliens’ as unscrupulous cowards, in priority of comment on the loss of over 900 lives. The article makes comment on the 32 year-old U-Boot commander Gunther Prien, who had successfully torpedoed the HMS Royal Oak in Scapa Flow, Orkney, with a loss of over 800 lives out of a total complement of almost 1,300. During the 238 days Prien spent at sea, he successfully sank over 30 ships until he and his 44 crew lost their lives off the West of Ireland in March 1941.

Luciano Mascio’s article ‘Una tragedia dell’emigrazione Italiana e Molisana, 02 Luglio 1940 affonda l’Arandora Star’ states:

“The war declaration was delivered to the ambassadors of Great Britain and France…” so stated Benito Mussolini in his speech at Piazza Venezia, Rome on 10 June 1940: in allegiance with Germany, Italy had declared war against Great Britain and France. With this declaration, UK Prime Minister Winston Churchill announced all Italians ‘Aliens’, and ordered their arrest and internment in “Alien Prison Camps” on suspicion that they might be spies for the Fascists.

“La dichiarazione di guerra è stata consegnata agli ambasciatori di Gran Bretagna e Francia……..” Una folla oceanica assiste al discorso di Benito Mussolini in Piazza Venezia a Roma in un caldo pomeriggio del 10 Giugno del 1940. Di fatto, l’Italia era entrata in guerra al fianco della Germania contro Gran Bretagna e Francia. Con la dichiarazione di guerra inoltrata, su ordine del Primo Ministro Inglese Winston Churchill, numerosi italiani residenti da anni in Gran Bretagna, con il solo sospetto che potessero essere delle spie del fascismo, furono internati e mandati in campi di prigionia “Aliens Camp”.

Most of these people had emigrated to the UK years before and had gained recognition as an integral part of the nation through hard-work in the catering, finance, clothing, handicrafts, carpentry and other sectors. Nevertheless, men between the ages of 16 and 75 were removed from their families, leaving behind wives, children, the elderly, and even children enlisted in the British Army. The families were assured that their men would come home in a few days. Things did not go that way and many did not return.

Ognuno di essi, emigrati da anni, si sentiva parte integrante della Nazione che li aveva accolti e, anche se a fatica, aveva conquistato posizioni di tutto rispetto nel commercio, nella ristorazione, nella finanza, nell’industria dell’abbigliamento, nell’artigianato. Nonostante questo, gli uomini dai 16 ai 75 anni furono allontanati dalle proprie famiglie, dai propri affetti, lasciando nella disperazione mogli, bambini, anziani e persino figli arruolati con l’esercito di sua Maestà britannica. Il rastrellamento dei nostri connazionali fu fatto in modo sbrigativo e veloce, rassicurando le famiglie che gli uomini rastrellati sarebbero tornati a casa in pochi giorni. Le cose non andarono proprio così: molti di loro non tornarono più.

Churchill’s aim was for these prisoners to be deported, away from the United Kingdom in order to render them harmless. The chosen camps were in Canada, Australia and the Isle of Mann. In order to implement this, the UK government used the Arandora Star, previously one of the Blue Star Line’s luxury cruise ships, and four other ships: the Bermuda Monarch, the Queen Mary, the Duchess of York and the Dunera.  The Arandora Star was repainted in grey but no indication of its humanitarian role was affixed.

L’obiettivo di Churchill era la deportazione dei prigionieri stranieri lontano dal Regno Unito. La mossa serviva a renderli completamente inoffensivi. I campi di prigionia scelti dal governo Inglese, per i nostri connazionali, si trovavano in Canada e in Australia. Il governo del Regno Unito, per attuare questo piano strategico, decise di requisire una lussuosa nave da crociera della Compagnia Blue Star Line, l’Arandora Star oltre ad altre quattro navi : la Monarch Bermuda, la Qeen Mary, la Duchess of York e la Dunera. L’Arandora Star, per questa occasione, venne riverniciata completamente di grigio, ma non fu apposto nessun segno di riconoscimento di nessuna organizzazione umanitaria.

On Monday the first of July 1940, under the command of Edgar Wallace Moulton, the Arandora Star sailed without escort from Liverpool towards its destination in Canada where the men were to be interned in prison camps. On board 200 men were guards, 174 were crew members, 86 were prisoners of war, 478 were Austrian and German ‘Enemy-Aliens’, and 800 were Italian-UK men with origins in various Italian regions who had had their UK civilian status revoked and had become classified as ‘Aliens’.

Il primo Luglio del 1940, sotto il comando di Edgar Wallace Moulton, l’Arandora salpò dal porto di Liverpool, senza nessuna scorta. La destinazione era il Canada, dove circa 1500 uomini dovevano essere internati in un campo di prigionia. Esclusi gli 86 prigionieri di guerra, 200 guardie , 478 austriaci e tedeschi, 174 membri di equipaggio, circa 800 civili erano italiani, originari di varie regioni italiane.

At 6am on July 2, 1940, after a single day of navigation, about 125 miles north of Ireland, the ship was bombed by the U-Boot U-47 submarine commanded by 32 year old Gunther Prien. The Germans had identified it as a warship and their misunderstanding resulted in one of the most tragic events of the Second World War. In about thirty minutes the Arandora Star had sunk into the depths of the Atlantic Ocean.

Il 2 Luglio 1940, dopo un solo giorno di navigazione, alle 06:00 del mattino, a circa 125 miglia a nord dell’Irlanda, la nave fu silurata da un U-Boot U-47 comandato dall’asso dei sommergibili Gunther Prien. Il sommergibile tedesco l’aveva scambiata per una nave da guerra piena di armi, invece, fu un autentico equivoco che sfociò in tragedia. In pochi attimi si era consumata una delle sciagure dell’emigrazione italiana tra le più tragiche della  storia della Seconda Guerra Mondiale. In circa trenta minuti la nave Arandora Star affondò, portandosi negli abissi dell’ oceano atlantico 446 cittadini italiani, emigrati da svariate parti d’Italia. 

Amongst the Aliens, 446 were Italian citizens, originating from communities throughout Italy including Emilia Romagna, Tuscany, Lazio, Piedmonte, Abruzzo, Sardinia, Sicilia and also eight from the Regione we know today as Molise.

  • Abruzzese Giocondino born in Filignano on August 26, 1875 and resident in Glasgow,
  • Cimorelli Giovanni was born in Montaquila on 23/06/1875 and resident in Edinburgh,
  • Di Luca Pietro was born in Rocchetta al Volturno on 29/09/1873 and resident in Glasgow,
  • Ferri Fiorentino born in Filignano on 22/01/1886 and resident in Bellshill, son of Angela Mascio, sister of my great-grandfather Pasquale,
  • Marzella Antonio born in Filignano on 06/04/1899 and resident in Glasgow,
  • Pacitti Alfonso born in Cerasuolo on 03/08/1887 and resident in Glasgow,
  • Pacitti Carmine born in Filignano on 03/06/1876 and resident in Carfin and
  • Palleschi Nicola born in Sesto Campano on 16/12/1884 and resident in Glasgow.

Numerose furono le vittime dell’Emilia Romagna, della Toscana, del Lazio, ma c’erano anche piemontesi, abruzzesi, sardi, siciliani e anche otto molisani. Abruzzese Giocondino nato a Filignano  il 26/08/1875 e residente a Glasgow, Cimorelli Giovanni nato a Montaquila il 23/06/1875 e residente a Edimburgo, Di Luca Pietro nato a Rocchetta al Volturno il 29/09/1873 e residente a Glasgow, Ferri Fiorentino nato a Filignano il 22/01/1886 e residente a Bellshill, figlio di Angela Mascio, sorella del mio bisnonno Pasquale, Marzella Antonio nato a Filignano il 06/04/1899 e residente a Glasgow, Pacitti Alfonso nato a Cerasuolo il 03/08/1887 e residente a Glasgow, Pacitti Carmine nato a Filignano  il 03/06/1876 e residente a Carfin, Palleschi Nicola nato a Sesto Campano il 16/12/1884 e residente a Glasgow.

Reports told that the evacuation was expertly managed by both Captain Edgar Wallace Moulton and German internee Captain Otto Burfeind, Commander of SS Adolph Woermann; both were lost with the ship. Henry De Wolf, Captain of the Canadian C-class destroyer HMCS St. Laurent was also commended for his role in rescuing over 600 passengers. On July 10, 1940, just eight days after the tragedy, the survivors embarked on a two-month journey on the Dunera to Melbourne, Australia.

La tragedia non ebbe contorni più tragici anche grazie all’opera di coordinamento all’evacuazione del comandante dell’Arandora Star Edgar Wallace Moulton e del capitano tedesco Otto Burfeind, prigioniero sull’Arandora e comandante della nave tedesca SS Adolph Woermann. Da encomio fu anche il comandante di un incrociatore canadese che aveva raccolto il may day, Henry De Wolf, che riuscì a mettere in salvo circa 600 passeggeri. I sopravvissuti in buone condizioni di salute, senza nessuna pietà, il 10 luglio del 1940, appena 8 giorni dopo la tragedia, vennero imbarcati sulla nave Dunera con direzione Melbourne in Australia e, dopo due mesi di navigazione, il 2 settembre, giunsero in Australia.

July 2, 2017 was the 77th anniversary of this Second World War tragedy. It seems just to remember the sacrifice of those who suffered this tragedy, and to their families who, after a long wait, were informed of the tragedy by the arrival of a letter from the British Secretary of State with the words “must be presumed to be missing and probably lost”. During August 1940, 213 bodies were washed up on the Irish coast, of which 35 were from the Arandora Star and a further 92 unidentified, most probably from the Arandora Star. All the others lie buried in the vast, stormy Atlantic.

Oggi 2 luglio 2017 ricorre il 77° anniversario di questa tragedia della Seconda Guerra Mondiale. Sembra doveroso ricordare il sacrificio di questi nostri corregionali e connazionali e di tutti coloro che hanno subito questo tragico epilogo della loro vita. Un pensiero va sia alle famiglie che, dopo svariati giorni dalla tragedia del mare, hanno avuto la consapevolezza di quanto era successo con l’arrivo della lettera da parte del Segretario di Stato Britannico con la dicitura: “must be presumed missing and probabily lost” che attestava che il proprio congiunto risultava disperso e sia alle famiglie di coloro che furono rinvenuti senza vita sulle spiagge del nord dell’Irlanda e sepolti in cimiteri in un raggio di cento chilometri senza nessun segno di riconoscimento. Tutti gli altri ebbero sepoltura nel vasto e tempestoso mar Atlantico.

The remembrance of this tragic event is important as are the horrors we face if hatred and intolerance prevail; the re-reading of the Arandora Star can help generations to design a different future.

Il ricordo di un avvenimento così tragico deve essere di monito per le generazioni presenti e per quelle future e deve aprire una riflessione sugli orrori ai quali si va incontro se prevale l’odio e l’intolleranza verso gli altri. La memoria e la rilettura di questi episodi devono aiutare le generazioni presenti a progettare un futuro diverso.

Written and first published by Luciano Mascio, June 2017

Translated by Deirdre MacKenna July 2017

Further reading

Incarcerated Masculinities: Male POWs and the Second World War by Juliette Pattinson, Lucy Noakes and Wendy Ugolini.

Arandora Star: Dall’oblio alla memoria-From oblivion to memory by M. Serena Balestracci. Monte Università Parma. 2008

Further websites

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hb3xf-nngsM

http://www.colonsay.org.uk/about/arandora-star

http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/ww2peopleswar/stories/94/a2618994.shtml

https://www.facebook.com/pg/The-Sinking-of-the-SS-Arandora-Star-373489092730067/posts/ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Szg_MoGShNk

http://www.mazzinigaribaldiclub.org/arandora_star/arandora_star_photographs.html

The Arandora Star

SS Arandora Star was a British registered cruise ship operated by the Blue Star Line from the late 1920s through the 1930s. At the onset of World War II the Arandora Star was requisitioned to transport troops, refugees, internees and prisoners of war. It evacuated troops from Norway and from France in June 1940 before undertaking what was to be its final voyage transporting Axis nationals and prisoners of war to Canada.

Image attached

04.07.1940 Daily Express front page reporting German U-Boat U-47 sinks troop ship Arandora Star. License paid to Alamy.OY18255184.IY00800952.15.08.2017.E5GGE4

Announcements: Molise in Scozia e Molise Interchange

Connected Images

04.07.1940 Daily Express front page reporting German U-Boat U-47 sinks troop ship Arandora Star. License paid to Alamy.OY18255184.IY00800952.15.08.2017.E5GGE4

04.07.1940 Daily Express front page reporting German U-Boat U-47 sinks troop ship Arandora Star. License paid to Alamy.OY18255184.IY00800952.15.08.2017.E5GGE4